Social scientists did not predict the collapse of the socialist system in 1989-91 and their attempts to explain postsocialism have not been comprehensive. Economic disintegration and political instability have been documented, but the deeper causes have often gone unnoticed. Consequently the solutions proffered, such as the promotion of non-governmental organisations as the foundations of 'civil society', have so far brought little success.
Postsocialism presents, for the first time, the anthropological responses to these problems which are all grounded in intensive fieldwork. The authors demonstrate that even when local conditions are specific, the view 'from below' illuminates macro trends. A wide range of topics are discussed, including:
*the role of social and cultural capital in determining the 'winners' of rural decollectivization
*the devaluation of blue collar labour
*the position of Gypsies
*the viability of 'multicultural' models in situations of religious differences and ethnic violence
*new patterns of consumption in China
*the revival of rituals and the healing of socialist 'trauma'. _
C. M. Hann is Founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, which specialises in studies of postsocialist countries. His book Socialism was published by Routledge in 1992.